‘It shocked me because she was pretty and in my childish mind, for some reason, I thought that pretty people should be nice.’
Amelia was born into a Catholic family in Western Australia during the mid-1960s. Around the time she was starting school, her parents travelled overseas for several weeks, they contacted an agency to organise a babysitter to look after the children.
The babysitter was a lovely woman, and Amelia’s parents happily left the country. However, the woman got a job with another family, and organised for her friend Lisa to replace her.
For the entire time Amelia’s parents were away, Amelia was sexually, emotionally and physically abused by Lisa and her boyfriend. Amelia and her siblings weren’t allowed to eat or go to the bathroom at all. She remembers the house being a mess. If Amelia didn’t do what Lisa or her boyfriend said, they threatened her.
‘They used my brother to make us do things. They threatened to light him on fire … I just did what they wanted.’
Amelia’s parents often called the house to check up on them. Amelia remembers the boyfriend standing behind her, holding her father’s cricket bat, when she was on the phone. She had to say positive things otherwise she would be hit. Amelia was very scared.
Lisa and her boyfriend left the home three days before the parents returned. Amelia thought that these bad things had happened because her mother had died, so she was shocked to see her parents again. She told them what had happened to the best of her ability.
Amelia’s mother immediately complained to the agency, and was devastated to discover that Lisa was not on their books. She then reported Lisa to the police who interviewed Amelia several days later. Lisa and her boyfriend were never found. Her mother later had a nervous breakdown.
Amelia became an outspoken child. She often yelled whenever she didn’t like doing things, and would call out during mass because she didn’t want to be a part of Catholicism anymore. She was about seven when she left the Catholic Church.
In the mid-1970s, Amelia and her family moved to another state for a fresh start. She was enrolled in a state primary school not too far from their home. Even though she had to repeat Grade 4, she was chosen as a ‘special student’.
The deputy principal, Mr Brown, chose Amelia and four other girls to meet him in his classroom after school. Brown wanted the girls to read aloud or show him the work they had done during the day.
‘He said that if we were very good and extra special we would win a reward. The reward was that we would become prefects in Grade 6. I was puzzled, but very excited … I wanted to be a prefect more than anything.’
When Amelia and the other girls went to Brown’s classroom, she stood in front of Brown’s desk, which was hidden, and read to him. Brown stood up and walked over to her. He put his hand under her skirt, ordered her to open her legs, and fondled her while she read aloud.
‘I was literally frozen. He put his hands in his pants, I didn’t know what he was doing … All I knew was that it reminded me of [Lisa and her boyfriend] and that it had to be wrong.’
Amelia noticed that Brown was wearing a crucifix around his neck. Because of this, she believed that he was good. She did what she was told, and then returned to her desk. Brown then called the next girl forward.
Amelia and the other girls were abused once a week over a 12-month period. Sometimes, when Amelia would wear several layers of clothing to prevent the abuse, Brown became angry and hit her with a cane.
Amelia noticed that the behavior of the other girls began to change: one girl became highly sexualized, one had an emotional breakdown, and one began going to the toilet accompanied by a boy.
‘They would climb on the toilet and look over the stall. They then reported to Brown whether we did a wee or a poo, which I didn’t understand.’
It took Amelia a while to disclose the abuse because she was afraid of Brown. When she eventually told the school’s principal that Brown was doing something bad, the principal didn’t want to listen. Brown left the school soon after and he didn’t return, much to Amelia’s relief.
Throughout her teens, Amelia didn’t tell anyone about being sexually abused by Brown. She told her parents after she left school, but they told her to forget it and move on. She never thought to report it to the police.
When Amelia was in her 20s, she married and had children. Even though she often thought of the abuse, she told no one for a long time. When she and her husband separated, he didn’t know the full details of what had happened to her.
Amelia’s children have intellectual disabilities which made them easy targets in school. Her eldest was sexually abused in primary school by two older students, but nothing was done by the school who informed her that the abusers had also been victims of abuse.
In the early 2010s, her children – then young teenagers – were sexually abused and bullied by two older school boys. The principal said that it was a problem for the police, and that it was up to Amelia to make a report. She reported the school to the police and to the department of education.
‘I’ve been blocked by everyone, I can’t go to anyone for help. If I ring asking for help, they just hang up on me.’